Should I Take The NaNoWriMo Challenge

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Dog by railroad tracksIn my last blog, I outlined some of the benefits of participating in the NaNoWriMo challenge. There are, however, obvious cautions to jumping into the challenge with both feet.

Without further adieu, here are things to consider before putting your eggs in the NaNoWriMo basket.

The Best Laid Plans:

I am a plotter. Before I write a single word, I plot out many of the main story points and write from there. Like most craftspersons, I have developed the practice of measuring twice and cutting once.

What the NaNoWriMo challenge assumes (or hopes) is that everyone flies by the seat of their pants. Some people do. They sit down with little more than an idea and they just… go. It’s true. I’ve met them. Strange creatures.

Esteemed writing coach Larry Brooks breaks divides into plotters and pantsers. If you do by nature fly by the seat of your pants in your endeavors then the NaNoWriMo challenge should work for you.

If you’re a plotter, you should have started earlier than 6AM on November 1st. Like August.

I have always felt that NaNoWriMo should give more in advance help to writers. They would benefit by helping new writers figure out their disposition by asking them that very question.

Numbers, Numbers, Numbers:

1,833. The number is the challenge’s bedrock.

Every day for thirty days, writers need to hit a target. Not 1,831. Not 1,832. 1,833. I write quickly. I would, however, balk at needing to hit that minimum amount each day.

Think of the movies and the bedraggled salesperson dialing their desk phone to hit a monthly quota. Is that the vision you have for your writing practice?

The Numbers Don’t Add Up:

55,000. It is a big number. Let’s not further wear out how it breaks down.

Here is the hard reality of 55,000: it really isn’t enough words. If you look at how Writers Market defines ideal manuscript lengths by genre, 55,000 is hardly sufficient.

Editors are looking for 65,000. 75,000.

Perhaps the creators of the NaNoWriMo challenge understood that more demands would be insurmountable. Whatever the reason though, I can only imagine the email boxes for acquisitions editors December 1st.

Every one chock full that of pitches for books that are too short for their markets.

Completion Brings More Uncertainty:

When December 1st comes and you’re finally able to sleep in because you knocked out 55,000 words the reality that pressing SAVE is not the end can come as quite a shock.

Hey, I have written a novel. Now what?

The wraparound supports of NaNoWriMo have improved over the last few years. The site helps writers look forward, beyond completion. However, it is critical to think of those realities early on.

When the first draft is done, it merely amounts to a first draft. Edits. Re-writes. Query letters. These all steps to follow. There is real work after the real work.

Many of these issues are what I would call dispositional cautions. For some writers these are obstacles to overcome instead of road blocks. If you don’t know which writer category you fit into, NaNoWriMo could become a month of surprises rather than successes.

What are your thoughts? Have you successfully participated in NaNoWriMo? Have a horror story?

Tell me about it!

And, If your manuscript is in need of some help, contact me today for a free consultation on how we can get your book publication ready.

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    Erick Mertz standing against a wall

    Erick Mertz 

    Writer, Editor

    Erick MertzShould I Take The NaNoWriMo Challenge

    Ask A Ghostwriter – The Right Conference

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    mertz-erick-ask-a-ghostwriter-writers-conferenceWorking as a ghostwriter can sometimes leave me feeling a little bit isolated. Heading out on the road to a writer’s conference though is often just what the doctor ordered.

    The bump in energy after attending a writers conference can carry me quite a long way. Just today, I came back from the Willamette Writer’s Conference in Portland, Oregon and I’m feeling as good as I’ve felt in a long time.

    The first few weeks after getting home, I tend to write and connect with my tribe with a renewed sense of purpose. For my creative process, regular attendance at a writer’s conference is important.

    Attending writers conferences should be a regular part of your experience. Whether you’re a ghostwriter or an aspiring fiction, non-fiction or screenwriter, I recommend carving out a regular series of conferences you can attend that will advance your craft and won’t break the bank in the process.

    Here are four key things to consider when choosing  conference:

    Ghostwriter Tip #1 – Cost

    I’ll come out and discuss the toughest factor first. Conferences cost money. There is the cost of admission. If the conference is out of town, you have to get there. You’ll have to eat and sleep too.

    Then there are the add-ons to consider. Pitches. Manuscript critiques. And, if you’re like me, there can sometimes be a hefty bar tab at the end of the night. After all, people tend to meet people at the bar.

    Be sure to look at the bottom line makes sense for what you can afford.

    Ghostwriter Tip #2 – What Fish Am I?


    I think about this factor… perhaps too much. What kind of a fish will I be?

    When I attend the mega-conferences, I feel like the proverbial little fish in a big pond. Sitting in a thriller or mystery class at one of these conferences, I likely won’t be sitting by a doe-eyed amateur.

    That other guy probably has a few books under his belt and I may well know his name.

    On the other hand, when I choose to attend a small conference there is more of a chance of feeling like the resident professional. People may actually look at me as that big fish.

    Neither of these relationships should deter you. You’re likely in the middle. Just be sure you’re ready.

    Ghostwriter Tip #3 – What Do I Want?

    Some conferences are craft oriented. Some are all about the business. There are still others that are driven to a very specific niche in the publishing world.

    Your brand new techno-thriller won’t do well at a romance writers shindig.

    Be sure you read the description of the conference you’re sizing up before hand. If you’re unsure for any reason, email someone at the conference who can help you understand what their focus is.

    Ghostwriter Tip #4 – How Likely Are You To Get Back?

    This is something writers rarely consider, but I think is among the most critical. How likely am I to get back to this conference on a regular basis?

    I have attended the Willamette Writer’s Conference eleven years running. Last year I decided to attend the North Coast Redwood Writers Conference in Crescent City, California for the first time. After some consideration, I found that it fit a lot of what I was looking for: it was an out of town experience that wasn’t too expensive with a laid back focus on craft.

    Why does this matter? You’re going to make connections and the best way to foster those is coming back year after year. If you’re in LA and the conference is in NY, going back each year may be a stretch.

    If you’re looking for great resources on conference, check out Poets & Writers and Writers Digest. These magazines frequently cover a whole host of national and international writer’s conferences.


    erick mertz portland oregon ghostwriterDo you have ideas on how to choose the best writer’s conference for you? Leave them in the comments below.

    Are you stuck on something in your writing? If you need writing advice from a professional? Why not Ask A Ghostwriter?

    Do you have a ghostwriting project you want to discuss?

    If you’re serious about having your fiction, screenplay or non-fiction story professionally written, and you have a budget, please contact me via email, or call for a free 30-minute 1:1 consultation.  

    Do you have ideas on this topic? If so, leave it in the comments below or drop me a line. I am always curious to know what people think about the writing life.

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      Erick Mertz standing against a wall

      Erick Mertz 

      Writer, Editor

      Erick MertzAsk A Ghostwriter – The Right Conference